DIY Disney: Chocolate Lava Cake from California Grill

Today, Chef Big Fat Panda’s DIY Disney Recipes column brings us a mouth-watering favorite from the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill. Take it away, Panda!


Hello! Chef BigFatPanda here!

Please forgive me for being away for so long. Life took hold of me and wouldn’t let go. I am sure you’ve been there. I am so delighted to bring you this new installment of decadent Chocolate Pleasure. The following is from Disney’s Contemporary Resort’s California Grill — Chocolate Lava Cake!

Let me share with you that this appears to be an easy straightforward recipe, but it was tougher than it looked. I try to choose recipes that are approachable and not very intimidating. While this is all those things, the effect of the “lava” is something that can easily be messed up. The good part, and why I urge you to try it, is that the worst thing that can happen is that you have a delicious chocolate cake with no lava.

As usual, the recipe’s instructions will be bolded for easy reference should you wish to print this out and skip my commentary. How could you though, seriously? ;-)

8 1-ounce semisweet chocolate squares, chopped
or 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 whole sticks of butter
5 egg yolks
4 whole eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1.  Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter sides of 6 individual (3/4 cup) ramekins. Lightly coat with sugar, shake out excess.

I got some nice Corningware ramekins at Wal-Mart. They were sold as a set of four for around $12 and really looked stylishly more expensive than that. I opted to get my hands dirty like a real chef and butter up my ramekins with my fingers. You can easily spray them with Pam though.

Buttered ramekins

2. Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler set over simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from over water and cool 10 minutes.

If you don’t have a “double boiler” set, you can make one using a deep pot and a smaller pot that is able to be floated safely in the larger pot. Using cold water, test how much water will be needed in the larger pot to float the smaller pot without water spilling over the sides. Then boil it up and place the smaller pot with ingredients to be melted into it. There is something heavenly about melting Chocolate and Butter together. Oh, I know what it is – it’s the fact that you’re melting Chocolate and Butter together! ;-) MMMmmm

Melting chocolate

3. Beat egg yolks and whole eggs together in a large bowl; add sugar and beat until thick and light, about 2 minutes

As I was making this recipe, like many cakes, I had a realization that it’s basically a Chocolate flavored scrambled egg. I mean, really now – look at these ingredients. It’s a lot of egg and a bit of other things. Make sure you read the recipe correctly. Another way to look at it is 9 egg yolks and 4 egg whites.

Beating eggs

4. Fold in chocolate mixture.

Folding is basically mixing while keeping more air in the mixture than would be released with a violent stir. Using a spatula or large spoon, slowly layer in the Chocolate. You will be incorporating the ingredients together while maintaining a level of airy fluffiness in the mixture.

5. Sift flour, then fold into batter, mixing until smooth.

Sifting flour

Pouring Chocolate


6. Divide batter among prepared cups, filling 3/4 full.

A secret suggestion I have is to fill one ramekin with slightly less batter than you’re supposed to and save this batter (lava) as an emergency stash in case you end up lava-less.

7.  Place on a baking sheet and bake about 35 to 40 minutes or until sides of cake are set and middle is still soft. Do not overbake.

Place ramekins in the oven

8. Using a small knife, cut around sides of cakes to loosen. Invert onto plates and serve with your favorite ice cream.

See that “Do not overbake”? This is very important. The goal is to bake the outside of the cake, leaving the inside somewhat raw to create the lava effect when it’s cut open.

Let me stress that this is VERY hard to accomplish. Why? Because a cake like this must be removed from the hot ramekin at the precise temperature where the cake is solid enough on the outside to be neatly removed and raw enough on the inside to create the liquid lava center. If it is allowed to cook for just a few minutes more, you will have a solid chocolate cake. Still not a bad result, but don’t call it a Chocolate Lava cake.

After 25 minutes, I had a feeling that the 35 to 40 minute estimate was way too much. I took out a cake and I was literally spot on. It was perfectly done. I took the rest out right away and it was too late for them. So, I got one great Chocolate Lava cake and many other chocolate cakes. ;-)

Lava Cake

I do not understand how they could be so off on their time as I double-checked my standard ramekin size and oven temperature. My suggestion is to make MORE than you need and test early on and remove them ASAP. If you fail with the “lava,” pour some on and tell people that “You meant to do that!” :-)

These were absolutely delicious with or without lava. A Vanilla Bean ice cream (one with those black vanilla bean specks) is the best choice here. The hot cake with the Vanilla ice cream is just beyond words. It’s sinful and something you feel privileged to enjoy.

Mickey loves Lava Cake

Please let me know if you try this, or have tried this, and what you thought. I am very interested in learning if you achieved Lava Nirvana or not.

Big Hugs to all of you and keep wishing on those stars! I promise not to be away for too long next time. I am thinking a good entree next – yes?


Chef BigFatPanda

Thanks again, John! Watch for Chef BigFatPanda’s column posts right here! Looking forward to that entree!


  1. says

    Great post, John! Glad to hear one of the lava cakes turned out lava-y! Ovens are so finicky with maintaining temps, you can hardly ever go by time suggestions, especially when baking. At least they didn’t turn out like the turkey in Carousel of Progress!

  2. Alan says

    So glad to have you back Chef, We’ve missed you. And what a great recipe to return with. My wife is a sucker for anything that leaks chocolate lava.

  3. says

    I have been looking forward to these posts, so glad to see another one!

    I always assumed a lava cake would be very difficult to make, that you would have to have a different kind of chocolate inside the batter. Now I know the real secret isn’t that difficult at all.

  4. says

    I cannot wait to try and make this! It is my favorite dessert at California Grill and order it every trip! Thank you for sharing!

  5. says

    I wonder if the same lava effect could be achieved by encasing a ball of stiff ganache in the cake batter? What do you think Chef?

  6. says

    Sarah – So true! Thanks so much!

    Alan – Thank you, let me know if she tries it.

    Chef Ron – awesome! please let me know the results.

    Mark D – While I don’t think there is any rule, it certainly will be a better contrast with the ice cream and make a better Lava presentation. It was still yummy afterwards but definitely better warm :)

    Angle – I thought exactly like you – that is would be a different formula inside :)

    Dana – You always make me laugh – imagine having to taste test :)

    Beth – Does mine look similar? Let me know your results

    Tricia – I thought that was how they achieved it and I am thinking I might try that and see what happens. It may cook and harden perhaps? We should try it.

  7. Pudge the Fish says

    I know that it is not a Disney recipe but the Neely’s from the Food Network have a great lava cake recipe that is pretty fool proof. I’ve made it several time and the lava has always come out as planned. There is a great addition of cinnamon and cayenne too that gives it an amazing flavor.

  8. Janet says

    The lava cakes looks great but never mind about that…where did you get Mickey dressed as a chef? I want one! Can you tell me where I can get one? Thanks!

  9. Maureen says

    Wish I read this beforehand. I called it a Scooby Doo Mystery cake since I don’t know how it would be lava – ish when I followed the time perfectly. Next time, 25 minutes. I am determined to get it right.

  10. sam winston says

    Some adjustments.

    Use light brown sugar.

    Use Cocoa Powder and white sugar to dust the buttered ramekins; It helps it to release.

    Weigh your chocolate an use 60 percent cocoa solid chocolate. Better chocolate; better cake.

    And here’s the big secret: Put the ramekins in the fridge for at least 1 hour before cooking.

    This avoids the problem of making ‘cake’ and leaves the insides still ‘lava’.
    and also means you make it about 5 hours ahead and hold it in the ‘fridge until baking at the last moment.

    I go for 25 mins and a ‘test’ cake as you mentioned.

  11. Carlisha says

    I made this recipe tonight as a surprise for my husband but was disappointed that after cooking for 20 minutes it was already over cooked. For it to be molten, I would have had to of taken them out after 15 minutes. I did follow the recommendations from Sam’s post (except for the brown sugar) and agree that the cocoa was wonderful and refrigerating them was worth it. Overall, it tasted like Cal grill’s and was delicious so I will definitely make again! Thank you for the recipe!

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